United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Dakar, Senegal, in the morning of Wednesday, 12 March, to attend the eleventh Summit of the Organization of the Islamic Conference.
Upon arrival, he first met with General Lamine Cissé, Officer-in-Charge of the United Nations Office for West Africa (UNOWA), and the heads of United Nations agencies representing the 600 United Nations staff members working in Senegal. After an exchange on United Nations reforms, on the Millennium Development Goals in Africa and on staff security, the Secretary-General received a painting offered by Senegalese artist Kalidou Kasse on one of the Millennium Development Goals: primary education for all.
He later met with Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade and Foreign Minister Cheikh Tidiane Gadio on the preparations of the summit meeting to be held that evening on President Wade’s Sudan-Chad initiative and the need to ensure that the agreements reached would be respected and implemented. The summit meeting planned that evening on that initiative was postponed for the next day, as some of the major participants could not attend.
On Wednesday, the Secretary-General met with the Secretary-General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, to discuss the OIC Summit. They also discussed terrorism, Islamophobia, freedom of expression, Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and Kosovo. The Secretary-General met later with Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, one of the leaders who had come to Dakar for the OIC Summit. The Secretary-General briefed the Prime Minister on the progress made on the International Tribunal for Lebanon. They discussed the constitutional impasse in Lebanon with the election of a President postponed for the seventeenth time, and other issues still to be resolved, like that of cluster bombs left on Lebanese territory and the Sheba'a farms.
Later on Wednesday, the Secretary-General met with the President of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Koroma. They talked about the peacebuilding process in that country and the difficult challenges the Government faces in the fight against corruption and in meeting the expectations of the population. They spoke of the Millennium Development Goals and issues of poor infrastructures in health, education and agricultural production in Sierra Leone. They discussed energy shortages, youth unemployment and the high prices of food and fuel.
On Thursday morning, the Secretary-General addressed the eleventh Summit of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Stressing the strong bonds between the United Nations and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the Secretary-General underlined their common defence of social and economic justice, and their joint efforts in generating a better understanding between cultures and religions. “The UN and the OIC stand side by side in rejecting forcefully and wholeheartedly any linkages between terrorism and Islam,” the Secretary-General said. He noted some of the crises facing member states of the OIC -- from the Middle East to Iraq, Sudan and Chad. On the Middle East, the Secretary-General urged Israel, the Palestinian Authority and their regional partners to take urgent measures to ease the suffering in Gaza. He also addressed the plight of the poorest of the poor, with many living in OIC member States. (See Press Release SG/SM/11463)
That afternoon, he participated as an observer in a mini-summit, twice postponed the previous day, hosted by President Wade, on the tensions between Chad and Sudan. It brought together the Presidents of Chad and Sudan, Idriss Deby Itno and Omer al-Bashir, the President of Gabon, Omar Bongo Ondimba, and the Chairman of the African Union Commission, Alpha Oumar Konaré, as well as observers from the European Union, the United States and France. An agreement was reached later that day, and in the evening, the Secretary-General witnessed, at the Presidential Palace, the signing of that agreement aimed at ending existing conflicts between the two countries. Upon his return to New York on Friday, the Secretary-General would commend the Governments of Chad and the Sudan for the agreement they reached in Dakar and their stated determination and commitment to normalize their bilateral relations.
Before he left Dakar he was briefed on Thursday by his Special Adviser, Ibrahim Gambari, who was returning from a visit to Myanmar. He also held some bilateral meetings on the margins of the eleventh Summit of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. He met with Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat. New approaches to the settlement of the Cyprus problem were discussed in some detail. The Secretary-General stated his intention to appoint a new Special Representative for Cyprus. He also met that day with King Mohammed VI of Morocco on the upcoming talks in New York on Western Sahara; with President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority on the situation in the Middle East, particularly in Gaza; with President al-Bashir of Sudan on accelerating the deployment of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID); with the President of Somalia, Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed; and with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia.
The Secretary-General travelled overnight and arrived in New York on Friday, 14 March.